Twitter battle over nuns

The following comes from a May 1 story of the Catholic News Agency.

Reaction to the Vatican’s announced reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious took form on the social media site Twitter, where efforts to show support for religious sisters dueled with the group’s critics.

Fr. James Martin, S.J., an editor for America magazine, launched a Twitter hashtag “#WhatSistersMeanToMe” to show appreciation for all religious sisters on the microblogging site where 140-character text messages and popular tags can spread with rapidity. 

“Catholic sisters teach me what it means to persevere without the benefit of institutional power,” he tweeted April 19.

“Framing things in that way, I thought, meant that people could show their gratitude for sisters, and read other messages of support, without being in any way negative. No need to be anti-Vatican or anti-bishop or anti-anything. Just pro-sister,” he said in an April 26 Washington Post column reflecting on what came next.

His comments brought in many appreciative tweets from those affected by religious sisters’ work in education, health care and spiritual direction.

They also drew a response from Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a blogging priest who believes some Leadership Conference defenders are ignoring the problems in the women’s religious orders.

“The upcoming reform of the leadership of the [Leadership Conference] is not about the Holy See or American bishops being mad at under-appreciated women who built and ran hospitals, schools, and orphanages,” he said April 24.

“The reform is not about their backing this or that political horse.”

“The reform is about the fact, the FACT, that many of the women religious in leadership positions over several decades embrace and still actively propagate a radical feminism to such a degree that they now promote, as part of their systems and power structures, unnatural acts between people of the same sex and the killing of babies within, and even mostly out of, the womb.”

Fr. Zhulsdorf encouraged his readers to use the “#WhatSistersMeanToMe” Twitter hashtag to note problems in the women’s religious orders, such as sisters who advocate for abortion rights.

Fr. Martin said some critics of the Leadership Conference were “vindictive, cruel, mocking” on Twitter and flooded the hashtag with “snotty comments about who were faithful sisters were and who were not.”

The spat follows the release of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s assessment of the women’s leadership conference, which has more than 1,500 member organizations representing 57,000 vowed religious.

The assessment found a doctrinal “crisis” within the organization. It called for a greater emphasis on the conference’s relationship with the U.S. bishops’ conference and on the need to provide “a sound doctrinal foundation in the faith of the Church.”

The Twitter initiative also prompted some to criticize the Catholic hierarchy.

Although Fr. Martin said he did not intend his effort to be “anti-Vatican or anti-bishop,” the Huffington Post’s report on his initiative depicted it as a response to the Vatican “cracking down” on the Leadership Conference.

Commenters at the Huffington Post also took a dim view of Vatican action. While many voiced appreciation for religious sisters, many also responded to Fr. Martin’s initiative by criticizing the bishops as oppressive and anti-woman. One self-described Catholic commenter attacked Mother Teresa, claiming she was primarily motivated by “money and power.”

For original story, Click here.



Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 12:12 AM By JLS
Fr. Martin seems like he believes he is the lord protector of the 57,000 sisters, and that they are not subject to the pope. I wonder what his collusion would be with any of the heretical women religious leaders.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 12:36 AM By Central Valley
Fr. Z is spot on as usual.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 2:14 AM By Abeca Christian
We are living in very dark and dangerous times. I pray for God’s courage and strength (and whatever virtues we are lacking, that God’s graces provide us with) so we can endure these times, all while raising a family.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 3:33 AM By Father Karl
When I was growing up, nuns were almost like the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity. I thought they were special, very holy, and extremely close to God. Being the right hand of the priest, they educated me, and greatly nurtured the faith, instilling in me the wonders of God, and how I must strive daily to try and reach Heaven. My father, a physician, who was not Catholic, NEVER charged a nun (or a priest) for medical services rendered. These nuns were brides of Christ. In the late 60’s, many nuns divorced Christ, and the, and became brides of Satan,, bringing scandal and ruin wherever they lurked. The good orders, like the Carmelites who serve in Duarte,Ca , and the sisters in Monroe, MI, keep getting vocations, while the feminazis are dying out. As Our Lord said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing”. Serving the Lord with gladness has never been an attribute of the ones who seek to destroy or mutulate the Catholic Church

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 3:47 AM By AnnaAsher
To be “pro Sister” is to be pro reform of the LCWR. Or, rather, since it’s members are largely from dying orders where no good fruits are being yielded; if your pro Sister, your pro suppression of LCWR.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 4:15 AM By Confused
If Fr. Martin really wanted to know what sisters mean to me I can tell him that snap shot tweets would not cover it. There is too much sorrow in my heart to be able to respond with a quick little flip answer. Their presence in my childhood was frightening and mysterious. I both loved their sacrifice yet their frustrated efforts caused a lot of my classmates to become bitter from their abuse in class. We remember them as adults with such sadness it breaks my heart. I am also unable to appreciate their efforts because those same women post Vatican II were only too quickly happy to throw off their beautiful habits for polyester suits and short butch hairstyles while embracing “Jesus Christ Superstar” and all that that entails. I can’t imagine our being without those who were sincere in their aim and efforts. The sister who fought to bring San Diego’s USD to fruition should be applauded for her success but her jewel has become cheapened by those who followed her. USD is now in the hands of people who think a drag show is “educational”. How to reform those so obstinant in sin seems so futile I don’t wonder at their shooting for five years to do it!

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 5:12 AM By JMJ
Life and our salvation is all about OBEDIENCE, a very nasty word, especially here in North America, and there are far too many ‘catholics’ that are playing word and mind games with God. One of the worst offenders is the group that is totally confused about Fatima and of course, the ‘nuns’ and Priest that are involved with them. Everybody should have “The Mystical City of God” by Blessed Mary of Agreda and study it every day and be real Catholics. +JMJ+

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 7:16 AM By Ted
This reform was never put out there by the Vatican or any bishop that I know of as a subject for debate. They had serious resons or the reform would never happen. Had the “leadership” of sisters in America chosen to lead people in the direction of orthodoxy and faithful service it would never have occasioned a reform. But they chose dissent and rebellious attitudes. Now, come the DESERVED consequences of their actions. Both of these priests need to shut up and let the process run its course. Twitter really ought to be done away with entirely. It has done far more evil than good.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 7:24 AM By OneoftheSheep
“The reform is about the fact, the FACT, that many of the women religious in leadership positions over several decades embrace and still actively propagate a radical feminism to such a degree that they now promote, as part of their systems and power structures, unnatural acts between people of the same sex and the killing of babies within, and even mostly out of, the womb.” Has there been a faithful Catholic in these times who has not come face to face with one of these sisters who turns her back on the hierarchy and embraces policies contrary to the teachings of the church? Recently,a local pastor spoke of his support for the rebellious sisters.I could not believe my ears. I believe he was more upset that I did not agree with his stance than that the sisters were in open defiance of the Vatican. Why? Abortion and contraception are innate evils that the sisters overlook in their social work. This did not appear to be a big issue to this pastor. He did not like the fact that I cc’d the Bishop to give him a heads up on what is being discussed in his Diocese.My conscience would not allow me to receive communion when this pastor is advocating for disobedience or at least minimal attention to church doctrine? He did not appear to understand how Theology of the Body had any relevance to the discussion. Heads up to the bishop: the people perish for lack of knowledge. I pray for this pastor who truly saw no harm in his remarks supporting the the sisters. Perhaps he should get out more. Perhaps he should meet some of the faithful Missionaries of Charity or the Dominican Sisters in our Diocese who do not appear to be troubled with the church teaching on abortion and contraception. Jesus has said to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” John 14:1 And so, there will always be some Catholics who ignore or minimize the wisdom of Peter. I pray for them. That we may all be one in the truth of Christ, the Word of the Father.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 7:53 AM By ldc
I feel sorry for these people, both priest and nuns/sisters, that have a problem with the Catholic Church. Why don’t they just get out and form their own or join one of the many out there, but leave us alone, these people are working for the devil one and some of them know it, they have a mission to DIVIDE, just like OBMA and his Administration. I was so happy to read an article where it indicates that the magazine America is so liberal. I was going to subscribe to it, my son receives it but he would not know or care to know about ‘lilberal/soialist’…(shame) but I thought I was giving him the best education and put my son in the best school by Jesuits, Belen Jesuit School, Miami, Fl., I was a single mom at 26 (now I am 75) because my husband wanted me to have an abortion…being Catholic is not easy but rewarding it is a life of Obedience, Suffering and Sacrifice. If one cannot obey the laws of God or the church He founded he/she better ask for His help by going to Adoration in front of His Real Presence….God Bless America cause we are One Nation Under God cause In God We Trust….

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 7:54 AM By Dana
I’m sure I’m not alone when I wonder who on earth’s business it is outside the church what actions Pope Benedict XVIII takes in dealing with dishonest, unCatholic rogue nuns? Does society go into hissy fits when Ford Motors closes down plants and lays off thousands of workers? Do various bloggers and newspaper columnists have spasms and write vitriolic opinions on the United Church of Chris’st latest promotion of whatever deadly sin their promoting as flavor of the week? Isn’t it odd when you think about it? It’s almost like everyone has a claim on what’s decided in the Catholic Church. It is very revealing isn’t it?

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 8:01 AM By Fr. J
Hurrah for Fr. Z!

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 8:18 AM By MD
I viewed Fr. Martin’s video on the accomplishments of sisters post Vatican II, but he neglects the fact that there are nuns who are promoting radical ideology as supposed Catholic doctrine. He seems to be missing the whole point of this investigation, namely orthodoxy and remaining faithful to the vows religious take. To read or hear sisters say that the Eucharist is merely symbolic, that abortion is justifiable, that marriage should be changed to allow same sex couples, that women should be priests, etc., it is clear to me why the Vatican is stepping in. What Fr. Martin did not point out is orders such as Mother Angelica’s Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration and many other good and orthodox orders I know of embrace the idea of the Church strengthening the Church and asking for religious to proclaim the Truth of the Gospel as proclaimed by the Church. Lets pray for our fallen religious. God Love You.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 8:32 AM By Susan
There IS a difference between nuns who love the Church and her teachings, and those who promote an agenda of change. I came into the church as a fervent convert from paganism and radical feminism. The power of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me and I sought the advice of a nun. She said she had “never experienced the Spirit in that way,” and suggested I might look into other non-Catholic churches. I said God wanted me here. I said I felt the Holy Spirit intensely when I cam to mass, and when I watched mass on EWTN, which she cautioned me was “very traditional.” Later, I joined a woman’s book club led by this nun, where a very modern secular book was studied in which vulgar words describing female anatomy were used. This shocked me (even as a former feminist!). The women in the group were encouraging Sister in this and promoting women’s empowerment, and said she would make a great priest. I said, “what about what Jesus said, ‘the last shall be first and the first shall be last?’ Shouldn’t we all try to be as humble as we can? If Jesus places women in our natural roles as wives and mothers, isn’t that the greatest thing we can do? What about HUMILITY?” They were all silent, and had no response. In contrast, the sisters of our local retreat house, who come to mass in habit and lead retreats for various groups are always very quiet and humble. They don’t say much, but once we had one come and speak to our homeschool kids. She was AMAZING in her love for Jesus, her Spouse, and her quiet power, and she was young, about 40 years old, compared to the much older non-habited nuns.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 8:40 AM By Angelo
I have read that in some quarters there are those asking that Rome suspend its assesment and to use diologue instead. Away with the diologue insanity, we’ve had enough of its uselessness. The Sisters should just comply with Rome’s demand for their own spiritual good as well as the spiritual good of the Church. As my own input I remember two Nuns assighned to our parish, one wore the Traditional Habit while the other wore secular clothing. Ironicaly the Nun who wore secular clothing was like a sweet Mother, very orthodox in the faith. The Nun that wore the Traditional Habit constantly bashed our Traditional minded Pastor, and worked to turn others against him. The orthodox Nun was only following the orders of her superiors in weaing secular clothing. But her heart was still in following the spirit of their foundress. May God grant her Eternal Rest!

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 9:13 AM By MacDonald
In our parish we have Sisters from both groups: the LCWR and the CMSWR. It seems to me that the latter group is happier, does not hate men, is not angry about the male priesthood, and has a great sense of community life thanks to communal prayer, a common habit, and traditional values such as living together in a convent, rather than renting some apartment. They have their squabbles, too, of course, like all of us, but my limited personal experience is that the smaller group, belonging to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is probably going to draw in more vocations, worry less about reinventing the Catholic Church, and end up living a happier and healthier life. The funny thing is, the first group sometimes attacks our parish priests if they are not always wearing the Roman collar (e.g., on their day off!), and yet they themselves refuse to wear any habit at all. Go figure. They also expect our priests to be on call day and night, but they themselves live away from the parish, God knows where, with an unlisted phone number. Enough from me…I’m getting grouchy just thinking about it.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 9:19 AM By Cheryl
I do not believe in abortion, but let’s be honest and realistic. Most cultures back women into a corner through disrespect of the gender, doubles standards, oppression and abuse of all kinds; should a girl or woman become pregnant she is expected to be punished (honor killing or economic hardship for the rest of her life) and denigrated in other ways even by the Church that mouths forgiveness like that truly given by Christ to Mary Magdalene. When you back any person into a corner the only weapon they have left is their body. These sisters minister to the truly disrespected people and are being punished for their Christ-like mercy. Our Church didn’t used to be so unmerciful and judgmental. Check out St. Thomas Aquinas’ position on abortion. Right now the Vatican oppresses the compassionate and does business as usual disrespecting women and the marginalized so it can remain powerful. The LCWR issue is not about “fallen women,” but about a powerful bureaucratic hierarchy threatened by Christ-like compassion. And the mindless flunkies of that hierarchy embrace the Vatican’s myopia.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 10:27 AM By Peggy
Fr. Karl gives an accurate, succinct summary of the problem. I would add that the “good” orders of nuns are increasing their numbers and the LCWR following nuns’ numbers are dwindling. Another example of God is in charge.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 10:47 AM By St. Christopher
Much more radical action is needed to root out anti-Catholic sisters, and supportive clergy, from the Church. Fr. Z is certainly correct in identifying the misleading tactic of Fr. Martin, which seeks to mislead and to avoid that awful scandal caused by the LCWR and its adherents. Sadly, these sisters are already out of the Church and should be assisted in the effort of being physically removed from it. No one benefits from having to endlessly debate the kind of issues that the Huffington Post believes are true Catholic issues; simply end the debate now and eliminate the dissenters (praying for their return, continuously, however). The Church is about one thing — salvation of its Members, and of the World. These women religious, and many clergy, simply do not believe in the Church, and will not believe in the Church. Efforts expended in the carousel of meaningless debates is a tactic and a tool to prevent the Church from its process of restoration — a process that is the real issue of concern for these people. Pope Benedict XVI is on the right track by seeking to re-incorporate the SSPX into the Church, return a sense, if not the actuality, of Tradition, and to stop the senseless waste of resources on appeasement efforts with advocates for the liberal wish list: homosexual sex and relations; female ordination; married priests; toleration of child abuse; unfettered divorce and remarriage; the re-feminization of the Mass; distortion of the Gospel words to be gender inclusive and to be morality inclusive, as well; and many other things. The Pope needs to be the Hammer of Thor to obliterate such apostasy (regret the pagan reference and mixed metaphor), leaving the door open for any sinner to repent and truly return (versus seeking only to alter the Church to fit public behavior). Wonderful step — and more are needed — to control the LCWR. Do not stop, Holy Father.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 10:50 AM By Brian
Cheryl, St. Thomas Aquinas considered abortion to be a grave sin: “Hence, after the sin of homicide whereby a human life already in existence is destroyed, this type of sin appears to take next place, for by it the generation of human nature is impeded.” Summa contra gentiles, 3, 122. He did not consider it to be homicide because he speculated that the soul was not joined with the body at conception.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 11:08 AM By k
Everyone, read the doctrinal assessment. It is on the USCCB website. Please, find out what you are talking about instead of projecting your own ideas.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 1:15 PM By Joel Torczon
The “Death Penalty Nun,” Sr. Helen Prejean, is speaking tonight and tomorrow night in Bakersfield. This subject explains why my pro-life friends and I have raised awareness to the possible impropriety of her appearances. We have written to this site, the 40 Days for Life headquarters, Catholic League, Spirit Daily, local priests and the Fresno Diocese. Only the 40 Days for Life folks have responded. They understood our concerns that the likes of Sr. Helen are misusing their ministries so as to devalue the pre-eminence of abortion among life issues, often by wrapping themselves in the “consistent life ethic” mantle, something that was deplored by the very developer of the ethic, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, in a 1988 interview with the National Catholic Register (see my editorial that was published in the Bakersfield paper by Googling “Why can we kill an innocent unborn but we can’t do the same to a mass murderer?”). I also submitted this letter to the diocesan office for publication in its paper but won’t be holding my breath for that to happen. In that letter I also mentioned the recent Vatican crackdown on the Catholic nuns’ group (LCWR) for, among other things, not speaking out more against same-sex marriage and abortion. Therefore, I feel justified in speaking out against Sr. Helen, who also will speak next week at the local Catholic high school, Garces. Tonight she speaks at St. Philip the Apostle Church, but her speech tomorrow night will take place at First Congregational Church, which is part of the United Church of Christ, a national body that has been active in numerous traditionally-liberal social causes, including support for abortion rights. Does anyone else see that as being scandalous? After all, if Catholic schools and churches are preventing or disinviting pro-abortion figures from speaking and/or being honored (as was the case some years ago when farmworker activist Dolores Huerta had her invitation to speak at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Bakersfield withdrawn because of her pro-abortion stance), then it seems only logical that Sr. Helen shouldn’t be speaking at a church that supports homosexuals as well as abortion rights.

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 1:16 PM By Joel Torczon
By the way, those interested in reading an article about Sr. Helen Prejean’s visit to Bakersfield can Google “Nun to speak against death penalty at local churches.”

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 1:20 PM By Joel Torczon
I neglected to mention that one other national leader in the pro-life movement (who is Catholic) responded to my inquiry. I won’t provide the name but am sure some of you will know who this person is. Here is that person’s comment in response: “Your letter is excellent and you are standing on solid ground. We know that those who have a politically driven agenda, like Sr. Helen, can present themselves as something they are not, or to put it another way, act like chameleons. I hope you are victorious in bringing the facts about this woman to light, for she is assuredly not pro-life according to the solid ethical framework the Church has provided.”

Posted Friday, May 04, 2012 3:46 PM By PJT
Why didn’t Fr. Zhulsdorf create his own twitter hashtag? Why did he have to usurp Fr. Martin’s? I side with Fr. Martin & LCWR on this one.